Middle East Studies

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The Attempt to Uproot Sunni-Arab Influence

A Geo-Strategic Analysis of the Western, Israeli and Iranian Quest for Domination

Joseph A. Kéchichian is the author of eleven published books, including Faysal: Saudi Arabia's King for All Seasons (2008), Succession in Saudi Arabia (2001), Power and Succession in Arab Monarchies, (2008), and Legal and Political Reforms in Saudi Arabia (2013). His most recent publications are 'Iffat al Thunayan: An Arabian Queen (2015), From Alliance to Union: Challenges Facing Gulf Cooperation States (2016) and the forthcoming The Nationalist Al Sa'ud Advisor: Shaykh Yusuf Yassin of Sa'udi Arabia

In the aftermath of popular uprisings that unleashed the quest for freedom, Arab governments scrambled to limit sectarian divisions, though much of these efforts came to naught. Regrettably, weak governments fell into carefully laid traps, aimed to divide and rule. Protracted wars further destroyed Arab wealth and cohesiveness, and Sunni communities saw their power bases marginalized. On cue, and preddcted by some commentators, extremist movements like the so-called Islamic State emerged, targeting Sunnis with extreme violence.

In 2014 Nabil Khalifé, an established Lebanese thinker, published a widely praised thesis that identified the root causes of renewed sectarian tensions at a time when confrontations polarized awakened Arab societies. Based on an extensive discussion of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the Shah, Khalifé advanced the notion that the revolution was not “Islamic” but an “Iranian-Shi'ah" rebellion that ended the Pahlavi military monarchy, and that the post-2011 Sunni–Shi'ah struggle was planned by leading Western powers, including Russia, to preserve Israel and impose the latter's acceptance in the Middle East as a natural element.

In this translation of Istihdaf Ahl al-Sunna [Targeting Sunnis], Joseph A. Kéchichian analyses the fundamental questions raised by the author to better place the current sectarian collision in a geo-strategic global perspective. Based on the book's avowals of how the world's three monotheistic religions perceive each other and “Political Sunnism,” Kéchichian assesses Henry Kissinger's famous appellation of the “Middle World” that houses significant and indispensable oil resources, and why that allegedly makes it – “Political Sunnism” – dangerous. In a comprehensive introduction to the translation, he describes various initiatives that led global powers to check the undeniable force of “Political Sunnism.”

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-853-4
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $74.95
Release Date: January 2017
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-854-1
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: January 2017
Page Extent / Format: 264 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: No


About the Author
About the Translator
Acknowledgments and Credits for Cover Illustrations
A Note on Transliteration

Translator's Introduction

Economic Development and Political Legitimacy
Target Tunisia
Egypt Confronts New Demons
Libya Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place
The Yemeni Killing Fields
To Sacrifice Iraq and Serve Iran
The Emasculation of Syria
Who is Winning the Arab Spring?

Sykes–Picot: Take One and Two
Academic Prowess
Sykes–Picot: Take Three
The Conundrum that is Israel
Iran—From Policeman of the Gulf to Nuclear Power?
The Suspicious Iran Deal: An Obama Victory

Devout Tunisians Embark on Separating Church from State
It's Political Salafism, Not Sectarianism, Stupid!
Is the Islamic State the first Caliphate of the 21st century?
Why the Ibrahim Caliphate is a Dud?
A Congruence of Christian and Muslim Extremisms
A Breath of Fresh Air in Inter-Religious Dialogue
How Jewish Prophecy Prepares for Perpetual Wars
Arab Majority Considers Iran a Regional Threat
Iranian Sectarianism Run Amok

Targeting Sunnis

Introduction: Sunnis Confront the World

1 Targeting Sunnis
The Religious Dimension
The Geopolitical Dimension
The Regional Dimension
The Sectarian Dimension
The Political Dimension
The Minorities Dimension
Sunni Intentions and Capabilities

2 Challenges and Confrontations
Middle East Geography and Demographics
Strategic Importance of the Muslim World and the
Middle East
Opposing Forces and the Determinants of Geopolitics

3 Which Country Leads Arab Muslims: Sa'udi Arabia or Iran?
Opposing and Competing Parties
Strategies and Tactics

4 The Impact of the "Arab Spring" on Lebanon
Section I: Transformations of the Arab Region
Section II: Assessment of the Arab Uprisings
Section III: Implications of Uprisings on Lebanon
Lebanon as a Buffer-State between Israeli and Syrian
Recent Activities that Cornered the Republic of Lebanon
Section IV: Appraisal of the First Two Years of the Uprisings

5 A Major Strategic Project for Two Contenders in the Middle East: Iran and Sa'udi Arabia
The Geopolitics of Iran: A Strategic Reference Point in the
Shi'ah Axis
The Geopolitics of the Kingdom of Sa'udi Arabia: A Centrist
Strategy of Moderation to Lead the Arab-Muslim World

6 Concluding Remarks
Islam and Democracy

1 The 1978 Al-Azhar Islamic Constitution
2 Al-Azhar Document on the Future of Egypt, 21 June 2011
3 Al-Azhar Document on Basic Freedoms, 8 January 2012
4 Al-Azhar Backs Article 2 of Egyptian Constitution, 11 July 2012
5 Al-Azhar Document Calls to Renounce Violence, 31 January 2013
6 Al-Azhar Document on Women's Rights, 26 February 2012
7 The Shi'ah Alliance
8 Perceptions of the War for Iraq
9 Russia and the War for Syria
10 British Support to Iranians
11 Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations
12 Ayatollah Ruhallah Khumayni
13 Ibrahim al-Baghdadi: The Great Departed
14 Daliah al-'Aqidi
15 Khumayni Commandment for War


Christian, Lebanese, intellectual Khaliffe argues that the post-2011 Sunni-Shi’ah struggle was planned by the West and Russia in order to preserve Israel and impose the latter’s acceptance in the Middle East. He draws distinctions between Sunnism, which he asserts evolved its political roots before it justified dogmatic aspects, and Shi’ism, which he asserts developed its religiosity before it aligned political agendas. He advances the idea that the 1979 Iranian Resolution was not Islamic but an Iranian-Shi’ah rebellion that ended the Pahlavi military monarchy. The translation of his book into English allows for a broader audience to benefit from the insights of an indigenous original thinker and Arab. Six chapters are: targeting Sunnis; challenges and confrontations; which country leads Arab Muslims: Sa’udi Arabia or Iran?; the impact of the “Arab Spring” on Lebanon; a major strategic project for two contenders in the Middle East: Iran and Sa’udi Arabia; concluding remarks.

Featured in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy (

Reviewed by Arturo Marzano in The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms (Routledge). Published online: 13 March 2020 under "The Attempt to Uproot Sunni-Arab Influence: A Geo-Strategic Analysis of the Western, Israeli and Iranian Quest for Domination, The European Legacy," DOI: 10.1080/10848770.2020.1736429

Reviewed by Sanford R. Silverburg, PhD, Catawba College, Salisbury, NC, in Middle East Media and Book Reviews Online (Volume: 6 Issue: 10, October 2018). Available at


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